It was just too tempting to resist this time. Defiance back in her eyes, she opened her mouth 'I-'
His mouth arrived to stop whatever she had been about to utter. Shock hit her broadside, sheer surprise at the unexpectedness of it holding her utterly transfixed. He hadn't kissed her once since their wedding night and then he'd been so angry, hard and punishing with frustrated desire. This was different, the anger was still there but the rest was warm, deep and sensually tantalising, the way he used his lips to prise hers apart then stroked the inner recesses of her mouth.
It was her very first tongue-to-tongue experience and the pleasurable sensations it fed into her tapped into one of her many restless, hopeless dreams about moments like this. The warm, clean, expensive scent of him, the smooth, knowing expertise with which he moulded her mouth to his, the slight rasping brush of his skin against her soft skin, the trailing, sensual drag she could feel on her senses that made her relax into him.
He drew back the moment he felt her first tentative response to him. Eyes too dark to read watched the soft quiver of her mouth before he looked deeply into the swirling green confusion mirrored in her eyes. Then he smiled.
'There,' he murmured with silken huskiness. 'I have just saved you from yourself. Aren't you fortunate to have a caring husband like me?'
As she frowned at the comment, he brushed a contemptuous kiss across her still parted mouth then drew right away, fingers trailing from her throat and untangling from her silken hair while she continued to puzzle-until she remembered what she had been about to say before the kiss. She shivered, horrified at how easily she had let herself be diverted. Resentment poured into her bloodstream. 'I still intend to leave you the moment I get out of here,' she said.
'You will not.' He was already on his feet and replacing the chair back from where he'd got it. 'And I will tell you why.' He sent her a cold look down the length of his arrogant nose. 'We still have a contract to fulfil.'
Nell lifted her chin to him, green eyes wishing him dead now. 'I signed under duress.'
'You mean you signed without reading it.'
Because she'd loved him so much she was blind! 'How many women would expect to be duped by both their own father and their future husband?' she defended her own piece of stupid folly.
Xander nodded in agreement. 'I offered to renegotiate,' he then reminded her. 'You turned the offer down, so the contract stands as written and signed.'
'And all for the love of money,' she said bitterly.
'A loan of fifty million pounds to haul your father out of trouble is a lot of money, Nell. Have you got the resources to pay me back?'
He knew she hadn't. The only money Nell had even a loose connection to was tied up in trusts left by her grandmother for any children Nell might have. And what her mother had left would not even pay back a tenth of what was owed to Xander.
'But I was not referring to the money,' he slid in smoothly. 'I was referring to the other clause-the one which involves me protecting my investment by you providing me with my son and heir to inherit from your father.'
Effectively putting Nell right out of the inheritance loop! 'Not with my permission.'
'With your permission,' he insisted. 'And at my time of choosing...'
He came back to the bed to lean over her again, ignoring her defensive jerk as he began plumping up the pillows behind her back.
'I have been very patient with you until now, yenika mou-'
'Because you had more-interesting things to do.'
As a direct shot about Vanessa, it went wide of its mark. 'Because,' he corrected, 'when we married you were nothing but a wounded babe in arms only a monster would have forced himself upon. The arrival of another man on the scene tells me I may well have been too patient with you.' Taking her by the shoulders, he gently urged her to lie back. Then his eyes were pinning her there, relentless and hard. 'Your growing time is up, Nell. I want a proper wife. Renege on the contract we made and I will take you, your father and your boyfriend to the cleaners and hang you all out to dry.'
'And cause yourself a nasty scandal involving yourself, your mistress and your lousy unfaithfulness?'
'Is that why you thought you could leave and get away with it?' Black silk eyebrows made a mocking arch. 'You think that because Vanessa has suddenly arrived back on the scene it gives you a tasty weapon to wield? I will let you into a little secret,' he murmured, a taunting fingertip making a swipe of her full bottom lip before he replaced it with the casual brush of his mouth. 'Vanessa has never been off the scene,' he informed her smoothly. 'I am just very discreet-usually.'
It was like being kicked while she was already down on the ground. It didn't help that her lips had filled with soft, pulsing heat. 'I hope you both rot in hell,' she breathed thickly.
'But you still want me, as that beautiful, quivering, hungry mouth is telling me.' He smiled a very grim smile. 'And if you were not so battered and bruised I would show you how much you want me.'